Sunday, August 10, 2008

Naked Chocolate

Haha, you're right Mrs. Crespo, I do love taking and putting up photos of food! I'm glad you guys liked the pictures of Le Bec Fin, but wait... there's more!

On Thursday, July 31st, June Chu took me, Cynthia, and Courtney out downtown to Naked Chocolate. We also watched a little of "The Princess Bride" outdoors, but Naked Chocolate was really the spotlight of that night. I'm so happy we got this opportunity to have fun outside of campus. A UPenn student, Monica, accompanied us for the beginning half of our outing, and Caroline came along for the second half. Both of them told me so much about either Penn or college life and applications in general, great thanks to them! We all had a lot of fun that night and absolutely loved Naked Chocolate. If only there was one in the Bay Area... :)

That place was amazing! It sold all kinds of chocolate, from little candies to lolipops and solid chocolate sculptures (check out that carriage and the leg!!!). Everything looked so delicious, it was hard to decide what to buy or eat.

Although chocolate was its speciality, it had a wide range of deserts and sweet drinks as well. June bought 4 different deserts for us, which we all shared so we would have an opportunity to try a little of everything. I dont remember the exact names, but from front to back: the cheesecake, the chocolate cake, the lime cupcake, and the oreo tart! The cheesecake was a melt in your mouth, the chocolate was extremely rich, the lime had an excellent oozing filling, and the oreo was fluffy and creamy. They were all sooo good. My personal favorite was the cheesecake!

After we finally finished our treats, we walked it off by going to the outdoor screening of the "Princess Bride". It was the perfect finish!

Thank you June for taking us out and treating us at Naked Chocolate!

We had a blast. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Watching "my girls".....

I have to admit that I believe that the best part of this whole month long experience was just watching "my girls" become themselves! At the beginning of our journey, I remember Courtney being kind of quiet and shy, Cynthia seeming to be indifferent, and Susan always smiling and happy. Through the last month, I got to see more of their true selves come out as they learned to be more independent and critical thinkers.
I remember the first time I saw Courtney busting up laughing when we were walking down the street to Ben & Jerry's for our first meeting during our first week at UPenn, shattering my initial impression of her as a quiet, shy, young woman. I loved that Cynthia's dad called to check up on her because she kept telling him that "everything was fine" and he didn't know if that was true, or if she was just saying that because things weren't fine. And I remember when Susan first took charge and made an executive decision that the four of us should meet once a week at a "nice" to catch up and discuss the following week. All of them caught me off guard and changed my initial impressions of them. Throughout the summer, I got to see "my girls" become more confident in class and take initiative by going to PAACH to talk to June; become more social by making so many new friends from around the world; become leaders by taking charge in their journal club groups, presentations, and final essays; and come closer to the amazing and dynamic women that they are destined to become by achieving their dreams and goals by going to magnificent universities.
Now, we all have to support Susan Lee (and bug throughout the semester) as she applies to UPenn's "The College" this coming fall. She should be well aware that she has all of our support and encouragement during this difficult semester of AP courses and college applications and statements of purpose.
I can't begin to thank Charles, Madeline, and all of our supporters for the amazing opportunity to spend a summer with three amazingly bright women. I know that we always focus on what our students learn and gain from the opportunities that the Ivy League Connection offers our students, but as an educator, I too am always learning new things from my students and my experiences with my students. By far, this has been one of the best experiences I've ever had.
I believe that this is how all four of us felt by
the end of our month at UPenn! Thanks Susan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A little more on Le Bec Fin

Above: The menu at Le Bec Fin and Mr. Ramsey in front of the restaurant.

Reading Mrs. Crespo's great post was like going back to Le Bec Fin all over again. So, in this post, I would just like to add on a little of my own experience at Le Bec Fin!

In addition to being able to try out some fantastic food, the dinner was a chance for us all to meet with Mr. Ramsey, Bertha, June (PAACH) and America (La Casa Latina). I had a great time talking to everyone during the dinner, and thanks to June for giving me so much more information on the Penn College/Wharton's! The dinner was the first time I learned about dual majors, transfering, and the fact that we missed filming of the Transformers 2 on campus (awww).

And as for the food...

For the appetizer, we had a variety of breads accompanied by a lobster and peach drink. My favorite bread was baked with tasty sun dried tomatoes.

For my main course, I had scallops followed by a half lobster. I thought I never eaten lobster before, but my mom later told me I had it a few times when I was younger! It must have been before I was old enough to be afraid of trying new things. The lobster turned out to be very delicious, sort of like shrimp and crab combined. I'm glad I tried it.

The desert was my favorite part! Like Mrs. Crespo mentioned in her post, there was a fabulous cart of cakes we could choose from, and the best thing was you could have as much as you wanted. I tasted a little of a few different cakes, and they were all delicious! I took a little back home to my room mate, and she loved it too. :)

Thank you Mr. Ramsey for taking us to such a wonderful restaurant!!!

That's it for now!

Enjoy the Olympic games everyone. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Whirlwind Tuesday morning....

Once we got off of the trolly at the University City exit, we were smack in front of the building that would be Bertha Romo's dorm next year. This granted us a perfect photo opp of Charles and Bertha in front of her dorm, as shown to the right. Charles' smile captures the excitement, pride, and joy that we all feel for Bertha.
On Tuesday morning, Charles and I had a 9:00am appointment with Jacinda Ojeda, the former California representative for UPenn. We had a great meeting with her regarding UPenn's method and approach regarding recruitment in disadvantaged districts and their success within the schools in this district.
After our meeting with Jacinda at the Undergraduate Admissions Office, we had to book across campus to Market and 38th to meet with John Ceccati, the program director for the summer school programs. John had been such a great contact this past year and helped us tremendously with enrolling our girls and dotting all of the t's and i's. After spending a little while with him, we had to rush back to Undergraduate Admissions to attend a last-minute meeting that June Chu had set up for us with John Toomer, Director of Multicultural Admissions at UPenn. He had many great suggestions in order to help students from our attend Ivy League universities.
After rushing to three meetings within two hours, Charles had to rush off to the airport. His aunt picked him up from the hotel and and was going to spend some time with his family before leaving Philadelphia. Alas, Charles' visit had come to an end. It's amazing to think of all that Charles was able to accomplish in just a few days in the Philadelphia area. He's a powerhouse who is non-stop and it's because of that dynamic energy that the Ivy League Connection continues to grow, expand, and succeed.

Le Bec Fin with the girls & Charles...

I'm sorry that I have not had the chance to write in quite a while. As you can imagine, wrapping up at UPenn, arriving at SFO in the evening, driving to Delano early Sunday morning to pick up my own "kids" from "grandma", who met me half way from LA, getting back home Sunday night and starting work on Monday morning, I've been a bit cramped for time. Nonetheless, I still have so much to say about my last few days at UPenn and my overall experience with the Ivy League Connection program at UPenn.
After spending an amazing day at Princeton, Charles and I returned to Philadelphia to get ready for dinner with the girls and the representatives from La Casa Latina, America Espinal, and PAACH, Dr. June Chu.
Courtney, Susan, and Cynthia had all visited with June during the past week and had a great experience meeting her. The girls had all been a bit anxious about what to wear to the dinner, etc. One of the girls even asked if she could wear jeans or flip flops to Le Bec Fin for dinner. After saying "no" several times, the girls were ready to go to dinner. We all met at the Sheraton hotel and took the trolly to the civic center/downtown area near Walnut and 14th, where Le Bec Fin is located.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were all impressed and in awe with the beauty and elegance of the
restaurant. The menu had so many great choices that it was difficult to choose only a few items.
After finishing my divine pasta dinner, we all had the pleasure of eating dessert at Le Bec Fin. It turns out that dessert is limitless! We were told what every single dessert on the dessert tray was and then we were allowed to chose as many, and as much of what ever we so desired. Imagine that!! Now remember, Charles was with seven other women at this dinner, and at this point, we were seven, very happy women! At the end of our dinner, we also got to take a picture with Chef Perrier, who is very well known because of his success with Le Bec Fin.
After dinner, we all took the trolly back home to University City. That, in and of itself, was an adventure. The girls and Charles all thought that the ride home didn't seem too safe, but to be honest, it was perfectly fine. They just weren't used to the environment we had to traverse in order to get home. And, we also knew that we had Charles there to protect us!!
I can't begin to thank Charles enough for a wonderful evening, dinner, and time. We spent almost four hours at Le Bec Fin and during those four hours, we had the wonderful opportunity to not only get to know our girls more, but to find out about UPenn from June and America. Furthermore, June is going to keep in touch with Susan and help her with her application to UPenn this fall, and America is going to keep tabs on Bertha and help her transition into UPenn smoothly. So, a BIG THANKS from the girls and me!!

The end of a great experience...

Well, it’s been about 3 days since Susan, Cynthia, and I left Pennsylvania. Although I am very happy to be home (you can even ask Susan, I could hardly stop smiling when the plane started to land. haha), I’m truly starting to miss everything about Penn and a part of me really wants to go back. I miss the classes, people, independence, and just the lifestyle.

The class was definitely not what I expected. Truthfully, I was a little scared about the biomedical research program. I was expecting to walk into the class and have to listen to a mean teacher talk all day and be given a ton of homework to turn in the next morning. But I was wrong. Our teacher was friendly and tried to make everyone in the class comfortable. It was nice to be in an environment where all the students wanted to learn. However since some of the material she lectured on was pretty new to me, I wasn’t like some of the kids in my class who raised their hands to answer every question. But I can say that a learned a lot from her class and that’s the most important part of this experience, right? I’m sure I will be able to use all the knowledge I gained from morning lectures, afternoon labs, and journal club meetings in my future classes.

As I said before, I expected to be forced to do a ton of work and I thought I would be up all night frantically trying to finish everything in time. However, this was not how it was. There was hardly any work to finish after class except a few lab questions or a small activity. Oh and there was that final paper I had to finish during that last week of class. But other than those small assignments, there wasn’t that much homework, so I had a lot of free time on my hands.

Besides class, I also enjoyed all the extra activities. With the weekend trips to Washington DC and New York, I was able to take a look at other colleges other than Penn like Georgetown, NYU, and GW. The mandatory movie nights and the trip to Jersey helped everyone relax after a week of class. The daily activities (tie-dye and jewelry) were great ways to socialize and meet new people.

When I first came to Penn, I was a little nervous about meeting new people since the only people I knew were Cynthia and Susan (and I barely knew them!). But it was much easier to talk to everyone than I expected. I was able to meet kids from all over the country and the world. Everyone was different and came from different schools – private school, public school, small school (she had 100+ kids in her grade), big school (one person had 1,000+ students in her grade!). But we all connected in some way. It was extremely difficult to leave all these people and come home. I’m still not used to it. At Penn, all I had to do was walk outside of my dorm room and I would find someone to talk to!

One of the most important things I can take from this experience is being independent. For four weeks, I had to do everything myself. I had to buy food, do laundry, and wake myself up. I didn’t have anyone by my side to help me. My parents weren’t there to fix my mistakes. I had to be even more responsible because I didn’t have a roommate to count on. If I woke up late one morning, no one would pull me out of bed. Each time I left my room, I had to make sure I had my ID and keys because if I left them, I couldn’t call my roommate to bring them to me or open the door.

I’d like to end my last post by saying thanks to everyone who made this experience possible for the three of us. Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenberg, all of us who participated in the Ivy League Connection program are so grateful for the time and energy you two gave up to give us the chance to have this opportunity. Mrs. Crespo! Thanks for being such a great chaperone. You were like our mom in Pennsylvania always checking up on us, but you also gave us our space. My parents – thank you for giving me my independence during these four weeks. It was weird when all the teenagers I talked to said that their parents would call everyday to check on them, but I didn’t have this problem. I would also like to thank my teacher (and her two assistants), lab instructor (plus his assistant), and journal club leader for all the help they offered everyone in the class. I certainly learned a lot during this month. Finally, I want to show my appreciation to all of the sponsors. None of this could be possible without each of you. This is definitely not the summer I thought I would have and it isn’t a summer I will never forget. Thanks again!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Looking back to move forward

I was surprised when I stepped off the airplane Saturday night to be welcomed home by cool and crisp air. I had unconsciously expected the envelopingly humid air of Pennsylvania, and to be honest, I miss the hot weather just a little bit! I remember that when I first set foot in Philly, I was overwhelmed by the heat and moisture. But as the weeks progressed, the weather didn't seem quite as bad anymore -- I had adjusted.

Just as I got used to the weather, I gradually adjusted to life at UPenn. For the first few days I was there, I was a little lost on my own. I didn't know anyone there except Cynthia and Courtney, and could barely remember who my residential counselor was. I didn't know the shortcut to class, where the best place to eat was, how to do laundry, or how to check out books at the library. But, I eventually found out how to get to the gym, figured out my favorite type of quesadila, got used to my class schedule, and made friends with great people. The world at Penn was beginning to open up to me.

This trip gave me an incredible view on several aspects of an Ivy League university, including the campus, students, and academics. I thought UPenn's campus was amazing, especially once I knew my way around. It's buildings are beautiful, and the entire university is situated in the middle of a huge city, with downtown easily accessable. Shops and restaurants are interwined so that the campus is like a little town of its own. I thought the mixture of modern and historical architecture was just right, so students are always reminded of its dynamic past as they work toward their own vibrant futures.

But even more than I loved the campus, I loved its culture and the people. I took Bertha's advice to talk to as many people as I could, and ended up making some terrific friends. I was surprised how easy it was to find things in common with people who appeared to be so different; many of the people I got to know came from places I had never even set foot in. Just socializing with others helped me broaden my knowledge of the outside world, from gaining political insight on Hillary and Obama to learning about the latest HIV research. I also learned some little things I probably would have never known otherwise, like the fact high schoolers can be nationally ranked in fencing, the difference between a treadmill and an elliptical, and which jokes of mine are really bad. So many people were willing to open their arms to include me, and selflessly help and advise me in my endeavors (like June Chu of PAACH).

The people and campus together composed the wonderful UPenn culture I experienced. Like all other cultures, this one is just as difficult to describle, especially since I felt it more than observed it. To me, one of its most noticable characteristics was the incredible geographical and social unity of the school. Even though I was only there for a short amount of time, associated with a limited amount of the population, and could only explore a small percentage of University City, I got a taste of the deep bonds that were able to bring all kinds of different people together like a huge family.

But, I didn't want to go there and just be amazed by the East Coast; I wanted everyone to realize how great the West Coast is too! So, I shared some Bay Area slang (most notably "hecka" and "hella") with my friends and told everyone about why I loved California. When we visited New York and my friends were done telling me all about the city, I told them all about San Francisco. When we went to Ocean City, my buddies bragged all about their beaches on the way there, but I bragged all about ours the way back. I tried to bring the West Coast to them, and everyone tried to bring their cultures to me. It's also this sharing that makes the UPenn community so unique and diverse; the entire culture becomes a mixture of what everyone brings in.

I wasn't too sure how I would handle a college course at such a prestigious university, but I ended up learning a ton and having a blast. Of course, I would not have done nearly as well if I did not have such strong preparation from my teachers back at Hercules. However, even with prior experience, I can't say I wasn't blown away by the academic opportunities and advantages offered by UPenn. All my teachers at UPenn genuinely gave their all to help us, and made extra support avaliable to us outside the classroom. Because we are high schoolers and not actual college students, they adjusted the curriculum so it would be easier for us to take in and understand. If we students wanted to seek it, we could find latest research and information at our fingertips online or in the libraries. Through talking with current college students and faculty, I know that there are multiple study opportunities and programs to support all kinds of educational pursuits.

Just being in an actual college class was a whole new experience of its own. I learned so much about applying biology to medicine, and the labs I performed answered all my questions of how and why it happens. The lectures, labs and journal clubs really brought what I learned back home to a whole new level. But that's not all: besides the intellectual lessons I accumulated, I learned some life lessons as well. In my class of 70, I had to approach the teacher for her to remember me, which I never had to do in high school. Although we were required to attend class, no one was disciplined to take notes, pay attention, or do extra reading. It was from this I learned that if I wanted something I would have to reach out and grab it. Everything, from if I wanted the instructor to know who I was, to if I wanted to optimize my education and take advantage of my resources, depended on me to make it happen. No one was going to catch some fish and hand it to me, but if I asked and listened I could learn how to go fishing for myself.

Beyond gaining the feel of a college class, I was able to experience genuine college life (minus the part-time job!). I thought I was going to sad once my senior year of high school came along, but not so much anymore now I know how fun college can be. The program engaged us in recreational activities, like going outside the city on Saturdays, movies on Fridays, and little things like shopping and tye-dye during the week. We also had a few dances and parties, which was a great chance for us to get together and socialize. There also were some less exciting things, like doing laundry and buying food from the local convenience store, but it was still something new. Even when there really wasn't anything planned for us, my friends and I wandered around campus or ate out, and had loads of fun anyways.

I really grew up during these four weeks. My parents thought I was going to starve myself and never go to bed, but I think I took pretty good care of myself. I even had doubts about my own discipline, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! I made sure I got three meals a day and enough sleep, and I was even responsible enough about my health to go to the gym! (sort of.) As a student, I had to balance time for studying with time for myself, also improving my time management. In my independance, I was able to acquire valuable life skills that I never would have been exposed to had I stayed underneath the tree.

(I edited this out of my last post because I thought it belonged in this one more, so if you've already seen it just skip this paragraph)It may seem like the game is over now, but in actuality, it is only just beginning. College applications for me are this fall, and after this trip, I definitely would like to apply to the UPenn College. It was at Penn this summer that I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the world outside my community back home, and more importantly, myself. Right now, I can confidently say that I am more sure of my plans for the future than I was before I went.

It is also because of my experience at UPenn that my entire outlook on potential colleges has been transformed. Before I left, I never even considered UPenn as a place I could apply to. Even though I had planned to apply out of state, I never really saw the Ivy League as a part of my options. But, going to UPenn has opened my mind and given me a chance to glimpse what else is out there, and Ivy League schools seem more within my reach than before. The horizon sure is broader than I thought!

The only thing I regret is not having enough time. We didn't have enough time to see the Statue of Liberty, or walk around the entire King of Prussia Mall. I didn't have enough time to write a 12 page research paper, or to even eat at Jim's! But perhaps that's why I still find Penn so interesting -- there is still more people to meet, more places to see, more to learn, and more to discover.

As a part of the first Hercules Ivy League Connection "generation," I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be a part of such a great program. The Ivy League Connection was truely my connection to the Ivy League, by making sure we were prepared before we left, oriented when we got there, and supported the entire way. Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenburg always called to see how we were doing, and even visited us while we were there. While I was busy studying or traveling, they helped me establish relationships with others so I could learn more about UPenn, and always found information for me to enhance my overall experience. Don has never failed to give us advice and show support through commenting on our blogs, and Mrs. Lilhanand was always there if I ever had a question or needed some help.

If I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn't even hesitate! These four weeks were probably the fastest four weeks of my life. Now I'm just looking back upon everything I've taken in, because it's all helping me move forward into my future.


Thinking about all the valuable lessons and relationships I have acquired from this trip reminds me even more of how thankful I am to be able to have such a wonderful experience, and all the people who supported me along the way. None of this would have been possible without Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Kronenburg, who have worked so hard to give us a chance to take part in such a great experience. Mrs. Crespo was a great chaperone, always making sure we were doing well and never failing to take us to try new things. While Don, Mrs. Lilhanand, Mr. Hudson, and my parents never came to Penn, they were still beside me every step of the way. Throughout my trip, everyone has always offered help, and given me support, encouragement, and superb advice. I am thankful to my friends, who took care of me during my trip and made my journey all the more enjoyable. I am extremely grateful to my teacher, lab instructors, and journal club leaders, who never hesitated to spend time and help me. And, the Columbia group, which was in NY the same time we were at Penn, had an excellent blog that made me feel like I was experiencing two programs at once. Last but not least, I would like to thank the sponsors, who are the very foundation of the Ivy League Connection. Without them, none of us would have had this incredible opportunity and the chance to go through such an amazing learning experience. This summer was truely unforgettable. Thank you, everyone!


Well, our adventure at Pennsylvania is over. A part of me is sad and a little bit nostalgic but another part of me is happy to be home, in California. I'm attending a camp right now called Bay Area Asian Youth Fellowship and I'm happy to be here.

If I learned anything from being in Pennsylvania, it would be to reach out and take chances on people and other things. The first week or two of Pennsylvania, I was scared to talk to meet new people because I'm not the kind of person who would initiate a conversation. When people started coming up to me to talk to me, I started to realize how great the people at UPenn were. I think I really started feeling at home the last week of the program. It might have been because we had a lot more time to really hang out with the people, but it also could've been because I met a lot more people. I also learned this lesson from just taking the chance and going to Pennslyvania. I was a little unsure about going to the program in the first place because it was so far away and it was for a month but I'm really glad I took the chance.

I felt like the academic program at the summer program was very well organized. The teacher was amazing, I felt like she really cared about the students and she was very passionate about teaching. She taught us a lot about biology but she also showed us how a good professor should behave. Because of the fact that I want to take AP biology in the future, I'm really glad I went. The people in the class were very motivated as independent learners and I learned a lot from them also. Being in that kind of environment was encouraging and it was easy to be studious.

The college life is really different from what I imagined. We had a lot more free time than I had expected and the workload wasn't as heavy (but that was probably because we were in a summer program). We had so much free time that I didn't know what to do with it and I enjoyed that because at home, I barely have any. I learned that being independant is fun. I'm really looking forward to college in general now because of this experience.

I hope that this insight was enough to satisfy your curiousity about this experience. I'm at camp right now and we're about to go kayaking! I feel like the life lessons I learned at Pennsylvania was worth it and in conclusions, I'm really glad I went.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I expected to be able to have a concluding post up by today, but upon reflection there is just too much to write in one night. I need a little more time to organize my thoughts, but I will try to have it up ASAP. Sorry to keep you guys waiting!

The Grand Finale

As always, the best is saved for last. This final week of my amazing UPenn adventure was truely a week to remember.

Just when I thought I couldn't get any busier, challenging final papers and presentations came along. The paper required a substantial amount of research, and I found myself spending most of my time in the library reading or on the computer looking up websites. I learned a lot more than I expected from this assignment; researching for it exposed me to new information in other areas and gave me a chance to utilize UPenn's excellent educational resources (both online and in the library).

Right after the paper was due, I began to work on my presentation with my journal club group. We were assigned to present as the last group on the last day, and I was supposed to be the last person in my group to talk! This arrangement, and the fact that there are about 70 students in my class, made me feel very anxious about going up. However, once it was actually my turn, I concentrated on what I had to say, stared at foreheads instead of eyes (thanks Mr.Hudson!) and did what I had to do. It wasn't as bad as I thought, and, it was such a great chance to practice my public speaking skills.

This week was also when I got to know better June Chu (the director of PAACH), and the many people she introduced me to. Whether it was over dinner at La Bec Fin, candy in her office, or sushi at Houston's, I always learned something new from June in a fun and interesting way. Everyone I met through her also had important advice to give me, from how to become a more competitive applicant, to which UPenn college may be more suitable for my interests. I had a great time getting to know her, UPenn, and Philly! I hope one day I will be able to come out from the recieving end and share with others like she has with me. (Actually, on second thought, that day might not be that far away. With everything this trip has given me, I now have sooo much to share.)

Now at the airport, I'm excited to go home but very sad to leave. For 4 weeks, Philly has been my home, and the friends I have made my family. (Here I had to board the plane, so changing tenses from here). I loved my time at UPenn; what an experience of a lifetime! Being in a top notch Biomed program revolutionized my knowledge of science and exposed me to new labs and research. Dorming there really showed me what it was like to be an actual college student, and talking to people of from all over the globe opened my eyes and changed my perspectives. It was an intense program because we had so many academic and recreational activities to do, but the hard work was worth all the fun and enjoyment. Going to UPenn was everything I thought it would be and more.


P.S. Even though I'm back home, I will keep blogging so I can continue to share my experiences with everyone. This way, the posts can stay short and sweet! Also, I have yet to post a concluding blog later today.